No Explanation for 38% Decline in Vinal Technical High School Enrollment that Bucks Statewide Trends

in In the Region

At the start of the 2013-2014 school year, 656 students attended Vinal Technical High School in Middletown. By last year, that number had dropped to 407. The schools serves students from across Middlesex County, but this year the towns of Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook, Essex, Deep River and Chester combined to send just 24 students to the school, down from 44 in 2016.

Vinal lost 38 percent of its student population. That’s a dramatically different number from statewide enrollment in technical schools which have declined less than 1 percent, a loss of just 51 students. Public schools overall saw a decline of 4 percent, according to the State Department of Education.

“We are actively looking into it. We want to know why this is happening at Vinal,” said Kerry Markey, the communications director for the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System. “Generally, there is a regional decline in school enrollment.”

Vinal lost 38 percent of its student population. That’s a dramatically different number from statewide enrollment in technical schools which have declined less than 1 percent, a loss of just 51 students. Public schools overall saw a decline of 4 percent, according to the State Department of Education.

Many of the districts that send students to Vinal have seen a decline in student enrollment during that same time frame, but the declines have been substantially less — ranging from under 1 percent in East Hampton to just under 20 percent in Westbrook — according to the State Department of Education. 

Connecticut Technical Education and Career System, as well as the State Department of Education, offered no further explanation for the drop in enrollment at Vinal, while other technical high schools, including Eli Whitney in Hamden, Emmett O’Brien in Ansonia and J.M Wright in Stamford continue to grow.

But with an incoming freshman class 35 students larger than the sophomore class, Markey sees evidence that the school may have turned a corner.

“We love Vinal and we hope that this increase is a trend that continues,” Markey said. 

A new era for technical schools

To cope with declining enrollment, Vinal has begun to phase out its culinary and automotive collision repair and refinishing programs.

“Freshman are not being admitted into those programs for the first time this year,” Markey said. “Three years ago, they began phasing out the mechanical design and engineering technology program and the electromechanical program.”

In the past, these programs have prepared students for many jobs in the area including the United Technologies Company engine manufacturing plant based in Middletown. 

“We are consistently looking for program options that are of interest to our students, but also in high demand in the region, so students are more likely to get a job after graduation,” Markey said.

Over the past few years Vinal has added smaller programs including one in Criminal Justice and Protective Services, a program in Diesel and Heavy-duty equipment repair that might cater more to current jobs available in the somewhat rural region, Markey said.

“We are also working with the department of administrative services to renovate and update the facilities at Vinal Tech,” said Peter Yazbak, the communications director for the state department of education. “Once finished and the new programs are added, that could draw in more students from the area.”

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